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The Vietnam Reader: The Definitive Collection of American Fiction and Nonfiction on the War

Overview

The Vietnam Reader is a selection of the finest and best-known art from the American war in Vietnam, including fiction, nonfiction, poetry, drama, film, still photos, and popular song lyrics. All the strongest work is here, from mainstream bestsellers to radical poetry, from Tim O'Brien to Marvin Gaye. Also included are incisive reader's questions--useful for educators and book clubs--in a volume that makes an essential contribution to a wider understanding of the Vietnam War.

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Overview

The Vietnam Reader is a selection of the finest and best-known art from the American war in Vietnam, including fiction, nonfiction, poetry, drama, film, still photos, and popular song lyrics. All the strongest work is here, from mainstream bestsellers to radical poetry, from Tim O'Brien to Marvin Gaye. Also included are incisive reader's questions--useful for educators and book clubs--in a volume that makes an essential contribution to a wider understanding of the Vietnam War.

This authoritative and accessible volume is sure to become a classic reference, as well as indispensable and provocative reading for anyone who wants to know more about the war that changed the face of late-twentieth-century America.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Edited by Stewart O'Nan, The Vietnam Reader presents an authoritative collection of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, film, photography, and popular song lyrics depicting the war in Vietnam. From Tim O'Brien, Ron Kovic, and James Webb to Bruce Springsteen and Marvin Gaye, this wide-ranging compilation includes "selections that will give the reader both an essential overview and a deep understanding of how America has seen its time in Vietnam over the past thirty years."
Kirkus Reviews
O'Nan, himself the author of a well-received novel about the struggles of a Vietnam vet to readjust to civilian life (The Names of the Dead), has compiled a lengthy, varied, and somewhat idiosyncratic anthology of fiction and nonfiction by American writers about the war and its aftermath. The book was inspired, he notes in his preface, by his discovery that there was no wide-ranging compilation on the subject. O'Nan's selections, primarily excerpts from full-length works, include fiction by Tim O'Brien (Going After Cacciato, The Things They Carried), James Webb (Fields of Fire), Larry Heinemann (Paco's Story), Stephen Wright (Meditations in Green), and John Del Vecchio (The 13th Valley), plus excerpts from memoirs by Robert Mason (Chickenhawk), Ronald J. Glasser (365 Days), and Michael Lee Lanning (The Only War We Had). O'Nan also includes the lyrics of a variety of period songs ('The Ballad of the Green Berets,' 'Born in the USA'), critical summaries of films about the war, and some poetry. His adroit notes point out some of the most salient features of this literature (the relative neglect of the Vietnamese experience of war; the evolution of the American soldier protagonist from hero to cynical survivor; the persistent attempt to puzzle out what the war tells us about our society and government), and a glossary, bibliography, and chronology further help set the work in context. While the inclusion of more less-familiar writers would have been welcome, this is nonetheless a powerful, deeply revealing collection, and the best available introduction to a major body of modern American literature.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385491181
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/28/1998
  • Pages: 736
  • Sales rank: 619,181
  • Product dimensions: 5.15 (w) x 8.01 (h) x 1.58 (d)

Meet the Author

Stewart O'Nan
Stewart O'Nan
In 1996, the literary magazine Granta named Stewart O'Nan one of America's best young novelists -- an honor he has continued to justify in an impressive body of complex and stylistically diverse fiction.

Biography

Stewart O'Nan grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, addicted to cartoons, horror comics, Tarzan, science fiction, movies, TV, and garage punk. He studied aerospace engineering at Boston University, where he developed more rarified tastes (Camus, Coltrane, and the Beats), along with a lifelong obsession with the Boston Red Sox. After graduation, he worked as a test engineer for Grumman Aerospace in Long Island, devoting every spare moment he could find to writing. Then, with the encouragement of his wife, he enrolled in Cornell University to pursue a master's degree.

By the time O'Nan had finished graduate school, a few of his short stories had begun to attract some attention. He moved his family west and taught at the University of Central Oklahoma and the University of New Mexico. Then, in 1993, he hit pay dirt when his short story collection, In the Walled City, won the Drue Heinz Prize for Short Fiction. A year later, his first novel, Snow Angels, was awarded a Pirate's Alley William Faulkner Prize. Since then, he has gone on to forge a distinguished literary career. A self-described "fiction-writing machine," the multi-award-winning O'Nan averages a book a year. In 1996, Granta named him one of the Twenty Best Young American Novelists.

Although critics try to shoehorn his fiction into the horror genre, O'Nan's writing is far too complex and nuanced to permit such blatant categorization. True, his stories are suffused with trauma and tragedy, and his characters react unpredictably to the stress of terrible events; but the violence in O'Nan's fiction owes as much to Flannery O'Connor as to Stephen King -- two authors he acknowledges as important influences.

In addition to his novels, the prolific O'Nan has written a nonfiction account of the notorious 1944 Hartford Circus Fire. He is also co-author with fellow Bo-Sox fan Stephen King of Faithful, a chronicle of the team's legendary 2004 season.

Good To Know

In our exclusive interview, Stewart O'Nan shared some fun and fascinating facts about himself:

"Growing up, I delivered the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette to David McCullough's, Annie Dillard's and Nathaniel Philbrick's houses. The Philbricks tipped you a dime to put it in their screen door."

"The first novels I read with rapt fascination were Edgar Rice Burroughs's Tarzan series -- coverless, bought for a dime apiece at a Cub Scout rummage sale."

"Back in the early '80s, when I'd just begun to read seriously, I met Doris Lessing at the Kenmore Square Barnes & Noble before her very first game at Fenway Park. She seemed genuinely excited, and apprehensive, as if she might be asked to play."

"The library is still my favorite place in the world."

"I'd rather be reading than doing anything else, including writing."

"I'm an obsessive collector -- coins, books, records, baseball cards."

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    1. Also Known As:
      James Coltrane
    2. Hometown:
      Avon, CT
    1. Date of Birth:
      February 4, 1961
    2. Place of Birth:
      Pittsburgh, PA
    1. Education:
      B.S., Aerospace Engineering, Boston University, 1983; M.F.A., Cornell University, 1992
    2. Website:

Table of Contents

Map of Vietnam
Introduction 1
Chronology of the War 7
1 Green 11
The Green Berets (1965) 17
If I Die in a Combat Zone (1973) 41
Going After Cacciato (1978) 47
2 Early Work 51
one very hot day (1967) 57
If I Die in a Combat Zone (1973) 73
Obscenities (1972) 81
Sticks and Bones (1969) 89
From Demilitarized Zones (1976) 107
3 First Wave of Major Work 113
Born on the Fourth of July (1976) 119
Fields of Fire (1978) 130
A Rumor of War (1977) 150
Dispatches (1977) 200
Going After Cacciato (1978) 234
4 First Wave of Major Films 257
The Deer Hunter, Coming Home, Apocalypse Now 259
5 Songs 279
"The Ballad of the Green Berets" (1966) 285
"I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-to-Die Rag" (1965) 286
"Fortunate Son" (1969) 288
"The Unknown Soldier" (1968) 289
"What's Going On" (1971) 290
"War" (1970) 292
"Born in the U.S.A." (1984) 294
"The Big Parade" (1989) 296
6 The Oral History Boom 297
Nam (1981) 303
Bloods (1984) 324
A Piece of My Heart (1985) 338
From Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam, (1985) 351
Everything We Had (1981) 365
7 Second Wave of Major Work 389
The 13th Valley (1982) 395
Meditations in Green (1983) 414
Paco's Story (1986) 427
8 Second Wave of Major Films 439
Platoon, Full Metal Jacket 441
9 Memoirs 457
365 Days (1971) 461
The Killing Zone (1978) 470
Chickenhawk (1983) 483
The Only War We Had (1987) 495
10 Masterwork 503
The Things They Carried (1990) 507
11 Homecoming 539
Paco's Story (1986) 545
Love Medicine (1984) 561
From Carrying the Darkness (1985) 573
A Romance (1979), The Monkey Wars (1985), What Saves Us (1992) 579
The Things They Carried (1990) 593
12 Memory 613
Dien Cai Dau (1988) 619
In Country (1985) 632
"Incoming" (1994) 653
In the Lake of the Woods (1994) 655
"Mr. Giai's Poem" (1991) 672
13 The Wall 675
"The Invasion of Grenada" (1984) 679
The Names of the Dead (1996) 680
Dien Cai Dau (1988) 687
Glossary 693
Selected Additional Bibliography 697
Selected Additional Filmography 699
Reading Questions 701
Acknowledgments 715
Index 719
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Reading Group Guide

About the Book:The Vietnam Reader is a selection of the finest and best-known art from the American war in Vietnam, including fiction, nonfiction, poetry, drama, film, still photos, and popular song lyrics. All the strongest work is here, from mainstream bestsellers to radical poetry, from Tim O'Brien to Marvin Gaye. Also included are incisive reader's questions—useful for educators and book clubs—in a volume that makes an essential contribution to a wider understanding of the Vietnam War.

This authoritative and accessible volume is sure to become a classic reference, as well as indispensable and provocative reading for anyone who wants to know more about the war that changed the face of late-twentieth-century America.Discussion Questions:
Read More Show Less

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 4, 2012

    A great collection

    This is a worthwhile compendium for those who were there and too for those who were not. Maybe not for kids, but then again, given the grim popularity of video war games, maybe it is.

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  • Posted October 11, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Excellent Introduction to Literature about the American War in Vietnam

    This is an excellent, low-cost anthology of writing about the Vietnam War. Though I have a small library of important works from the immense literature about the war, I have not read much fiction or memoirs about the war. Professor O'Nan introduced me to samples of that literature. I especially appreciated the selections from Tim O'Brien and Robert Mason. I ordered one of Mr. Mason's books soon after I read the sample of his work. Yusef Komunyakaa's poem "Facing It" crowns the entire collection.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 21, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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